Taking notes probably doesn't resonate too well with dirt bike or ATV riders. Hands-on works best along with verbal instruction.

So it should come to no surprise that most dirt bike and ATV owners find keeping tabs on riding hours a bit tedious and mostly an annoying chore. But owning a well-documented maintenance schedule not only helps keep your ride operating in optimum condition but saves you money.

Ever heard other riders say they change the oil every other ride? Or how about the coolant once a year? Some simply wait on a new top end based on how the bike feels. Maybe that's you. But wouldn't you hate to roll up to the gate drop not knowing how many hours you have on the clutch and then your clutch goes out midrace? Woulda, coulda, shoulda...

The relatively inexpensive and easy nature of routine maintenance often leads to excessive fluid changes or not enough when a rider forgets and thinks "after the next ride." And the more involved tasks like a new top end, bottom end or clutch overhaul suffer from procrastination because who wants to spend all afternoon working on their bike when they could ride? Wait for a rainy day but by then performance has suffered and who knows what other damage you have incurred from waiting so long.

Regardless, keeping track of hours usually falls on the wayside. Save it to memory offers the easiest method to calculating the number of riding hours. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that well because people forget or jumble the hours. Was it three or four hours last weekend? Or, promising yourself to write down the hours ridden later only to forget until next ride day and maybe or maybe not remembering the hours from the last ride. Eventually, it all adds up…

And though Moto enthusiasts probably benefit the most from easily calculating the number of races you don't necessarily need to change the oil after every fill-in-the-blank gate drop. Stretching fluid changes eventually costs more in the long run but so does changing it too frequently. Therefore, a penny pinching privateer can make a dollar go a lot further when following the manufacturer's recommend service intervals.

If you usually put general maintenance to memory or in some cases go by how the bike feels a better way exists and you have probably heard about it. Like we said, no one likes taking notes but don't think of it as math class and once you put it to practice, like the routine excessive oil changes, it takes less than a minute and it helps tighten your riding budget.

Hour Meter

In our world of less is a lot more adding an hour meter to your dirt bike or ATV probably ranks even lower than keeping track of hours. However, hour meters for dirt bikes and ATVs weigh very little and take up such little room you will hardly notice one. Hour meters "install" (they don't actually install like a part as most come with a removable mounting kit) on the dirt bike frame between the radiator and triple clamps and on an ATV under the seat near the airbox lid , or near the rear fender if space allows, or on the frame near the front of the motor.

Once attached, a wire attaches to the coil or spark plug. A wireless hour meter offers an even easier installation process, runs off engine vibration and has found popularity among many riders. The wire version is mostly foolproof but some complaints against the wireless hour meter include running when in transit (vibrations from travel turn the meter on) or not running when actually riding. These issues usually stem from incorrect installation or installing on the wrong spot. Read the directions carefully because when installed correctly the wireless hour meters offer reliable and accurate readings.

Hour meters also offer various advanced features like a tachometer and pre-planned service intervals but mostly just run a clock calculating the hours ridden. Since parts and fluids have individual service life you need to document the hours and align it with the specific maintenance schedule. Just grab a small notebook and pen/pencil and after every ride make a quick note of the hours alongside the list of serviceable parts. The following have an hour life and need replacing based on manufacturer's recommendations:

  • Oil
  • Coolant
  • Top end/bottom end
  • Clutch
  • Linkage grease

You know that maintenance manual that comes with the bike? Hopefully you look at it often. Keep it with your notepad. Make calculating your riding hours a habit just like the post-ride cleanup and not only will you enjoy your bike for longer you might find more money in your pocket and more time to go riding.